Angels Among Us

Linda Davis Biggs

© Copyright 2017 by Linda Davis Biggs

Photo of heavy rain coming off a roof.

Most residents of Middle Tennessee will not forget May 1, 2010. We received around fifteen inches of rain in a little over two days. The ground quickly became saturated. Most rivers began to overflow. Our property is approximately 40 feet from the banks of Mill Creek. Mill Creek is affected by the condition of Cumberland River. The Cumberland River levels are regulated by the authorities employed at the Corps of Engineers.

The “powers-that-be” at the Core of Engineers thought the Percy Priest Dam might be taking on too much water and be in jeopardy of breaking. The flood gates were opened. That is when dark, polluted water came looking for us. How do I know it was polluted? My father's property joins our property. On his property is a very large sewer station. Every time we have a substantial rain, the top blows off.  Untreated sewage is emitted. It travels about one mile down stream until it reaches the
Cumberland River our water source. No one seems able to fix the problem, although
the city has been trying for around ten years.

There were nine members of our family displaced. My 91 year old father lived next door, which meant we were responsible for two house reconstructions. At our home the dark water slowly crept up to the steps. The water had entered. We could hear gurgling, banging, swishing, moaning, and creeping sounds coming from under our house. The sound was all consuming. The “THING” was alive and out to get us.

We had been watching the weather report earlier. The weather screen showed the line of rain marching, marching, marching to the East.

It just needs to stop!

Saturday night before I went to bed, I was wondering if this would be my last night in my bed. We should have had a better plan. We waited too late.  Later we heard there were nearby roads closing and did not want to get blocked but we knew it was time to leave. We grabbed a few items and legal papers not knowing what we would find when we returned. Our elderly neighbors did not want to leave but our daughter persuaded them finally.

We all managed to locate temporary shelter. All nine of our family members were scattered to the wind. My father was 91, I 'm handicapped and my husband is not very handy with carpentry. We did not know how to locate a honest contractor. A feeling of panic, displacement and uncertainty about our future was creeping in.

We all need to give the disaster team of Nashville and Mayor Karl Dean a lot of thanks for their quick response in the face of disaster. Everyone and every department went into control mode. Sadly a couple of lives were lost but property damage was extensive.

A special announcement on the radio informed affected citizens of several locations, including several schools, where emergency supplies were available. We finally located one of the schools. It was crammed with supplies. There were mops, brooms, Ajax, cleaning solutions, clean cloths, water, diapers, clothes and sandwiches.

A beautiful young lady was located at one of the tables. She wanted to know of anyone needed volunteers at their home. We immediately jumped straight up and down and signed with our name, address and cell phone number. We were amazed. Looking back, this is what saved us. This was all done within three days after the water began to recede. Tears began to flow. We were usually the ones to give food to the displaced; not the recipients. A cold realization of our dire situation crept in.

The dark, polluted, snake infested water began to recede on day three. The neighborhood looked sick. The red barn was caked with slick, dark mud and laying upside down in the next field. Entering the house was impossible. The wood doors were swollen tight. We had to get a sledgehammer and push hard. Shutting the doors were equally almost impossible.

Inside was pandemonium. We could see water marks three feet high. Everything in the bottom kitchen drawers was scattered on the floor. All small objects within three feet of height was scattered helter-skelter. Polluted water was inside all pots, pans and bowls in the kitchen. A half inch of dark, green slime was glued to all walking surfaces.  Walking and not falling was very difficult.

We considered ourselves among the very fortunate. A group of volunteers was at our two homes to assist and demolition on the inside began. Everything below three feet had to be gutted. Two strangers, Dewey Greene and James Evans, were among the workers. James came to the hotel we were staying. He stated that he and Dewey would be with our families for the duration of reconstruction. I said, “James we are a little confused.” James said he and Dewey felt a “calling” to assist.

We went down the road and located men that were loitering. We paid them hourly to demolish the inside of our homes. Piles of demolition six feet tall were soon placed outside of five homes. With a few phone calls, Metro Nashville had removed all debris within two weeks. They even made a return trip. Dollar General Store ran electrical and water lines outside and let flood victims wash a couple loads of clothing for free for a couple of weeks.

We applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for relief.

James and Dewey alternated in locating vendors, organizing, demolishing, reconstruction, finding supplies and furniture, and locating workers. We received care boxes with cleaning supplies from several organizations. We had approximately 150 volunteers from locations and organizations. We had volunteers from Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

We had representatives from the Baptist Church, Methodist, Church of Christ, Fellowship Christian, the Catholic Church and others. Volunteers were with us anywhere from one day, one week, intermittently, and many were with us on our “journey” for three months.

We had a lot of challenges, confusion, blessings, rewards and delays. We would come home to find items would “magically” appear: couches, beds, Kitchen cabinets, tables, stoves, ovens, refrigerators and chairs. Our house and my fathers house lost around 70% of everything we owned. We had a big celebration after 3 months. Our family will never forget the kindness of many strangers and we still have trouble processing the kindness of strangers. We have been blessed with new friends.

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